The Reverend Jasper Williams used the funeral service of Aretha Franklin to say words of praise about Franklin, but also to address “respect” issues in the Black Community as well. Our community is still discussing the issues he raised; even a week after the funeral.
Franklin’s family asked Reverend Williams to perform the eulogy for Franklin on national television because he also performed the eulogy for her father, the late Reverend C. L. Franklin. This week the Franklin family told the media in Detroit that the family found Reverend Williams’ message to be distasteful and offensive.
Rev. Williams, a nationally known pastor from Atlanta, raised four issues in his eulogy of Franklin: 1)The absence of black men in our families; 2)Need for male role models for black youth; 3)The lack of respect for life among blacks; 4)A growing lost of “soul” connections among Blacks.
These issues are usually preached by traditional black pastors across the nation, but usually the persons who need to hear them are never present. Rev. Williams used the national pulpit provided by the funeral to speak to Black people around the world, many of whom who do not attend any church at all.
For Rev. Williams, the funeral eulogy was a teachable moment.
He spoke to Black America, on the occasion of the Queen of Soul’s funeral, and said “Black America has lost its soul.” He referred to its sense of community and loss of what Franklin sung about “respect.”
He said that 70 percent of black community families are now headed by females. The online community instantly challenged his comments in real time on Twitter and Facebook. They said he gave unscientific data that belittled our community.
The census bureau says 62% of our household are single parents. The Kids Count Data Center report 68% black single-parent households. Dallas Police Chief David Brown is often quoted as saying there are 70% of our households headed by women.
Rev. Williams said the absence of fathers in families has an impact on black youth, especially black men. He said millions of black women are serving as fathers but cannot sufficiently show a black boy how to be a man.
He said, “As proud, beautiful and fine as our black women are, one thing a black woman cannot do, a black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man.” He asked, “Where is your soul, Black man?” as he challenged black men to assume their places of responsibility in rearing of the children, especially black boys.
Rev. Williams dealt with the unpopular issue of Black on Black crime. He touched a nerve when he mentioned that across the nation blacks march and proclaim Black Lives Matter if a white police officer kills a black person, but do not want to march when blacks kill other blacks in communities across the nation every day.
He said blacks may chant “Black Lives Matter, but they won’t really start to matter until the black community shows respect for the murders it commits against its own.”
“No, black lives do not matter,” Williams said. “Black lives will not matter, black lives ought not matter, black lives should not matter, black lives must not matter until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves,” he said.
He bemoaned the decline in Black Enterprise as the community becomes more dependent on the government. He said the rapid decline in Black owned businesses and entrepreneurship is a matter of concern because the micro-economies that once relied on black own small business, such as grocery stores, hotels and banks are disappearing.
Rev. Williams spoke about hard issues that must be faced by our community. It was one of those rare occasions when those who needed to hear it, heard it; even if they didn’t like what they heard.
Those who have concluded that they can successfully lead a family with a positive male, are challenged.
Those who conclude that we should be angry only when blacks are killed by whites, are challenged.
Those who believe that the growing presence of single parent families is not a problem, are challenged.
Most ministers probably would not have used the occasion of Aretha’s Funeral to make these points. Many don’t address them at all and those that do address them locally.
They gave Rev. Williams a worldwide microphone and the people would not have heard the message heard.
Now that we have heard, what do we do?